Your toddler – strong-willed or not – has thoughts and wants of their own. Sometimes, they won’t align with yours. Still, it’s important for your toddler to have the opportunity to express their opinions and have some control during daily tasks.
At this stage, giving your toddler choices is simple: Do you want cheese or yogurt with your lunch? But even the simplest of choices have multiple benefits for both of you, including:
Giving your toddler some control.
Parents and caregivers are the leaders and guiders in the relationship with a toddler. However, it’s often more productive (and peaceful) to work as a partner with your toddler instead of a boss. When you offer developmentally-appropriate choices, you can avoid power-struggles and nurture the first steps towards independence.
It might be sad watching your little one blossom into a little person who needs you less, but making decisions is a skill they’ll use throughout their life. Small choices, such as picking which shirt to wear to daycare, is where it starts. Giving them even a little decision-making control plants a seed of empowerment.
Avoiding the need to give in.
Offering options gives you perks, too. We’ve all been there: You set up an art activity for your toddler only for them to throw a tantrum because they wanted you to read them a story. Rather than feeling like you need to end the tantrum by giving in, you could prevent it by offering a choice to begin with. As you give more choices in everyday activities, you may notice fewer battles stirring between you and your strong-willed toddler.
Teaching cause and effect.
One of the best ways for children of any age to learn what happens after they make a choice is by having the freedom to make that choice. Every time your toddler chooses one option over another, they’ll learn what happens next. Practice makes perfect!
Helping them gain confidence.
Your toddler’s decision-making can also lead to a confidence boost that’s crucial for their age. They see that their opinions matter to you, which can bolster self-esteem in a big way. Over time, supporting your child’s confidence leads to a desire to try new things, an ability to manage peer pressure, and staying calm in anxiety-producing situations.
Offering Choices to Toddlers
Your toddler’s personality will guide you toward figuring out how to provide choices in a way that works for both of you. Here are a few tips that can also help:
- Avoid giving too many options. Stick to two or three, which makes choosing a little less overwhelming for little ones.
- Stick to simple questions with clear choices. For example, say, “Do you want to play with your instruments or listen to music?” rather than “Do you want to listen to a song?”
- Offer safe choices and alternatives. If your toddler is determined to run from room to room, for example, you can say, “Let’s go outside. Do you want to play soccer or ride your tricycle?”
- Make sure choices are age-appropriate. Toddlers can handle simple decisions, like picking what to wear, what healthy foods to eat, and what to play with.
Your toddler may be little, but they’re gaining independence! Learning how to make decisions is an important part of growing up. Here are other ways you can encourage your toddler’s independence.